Amidst COVID pandemic crisis India and Bangladesh took major steps to avoid bottleneck on the land route and decided to expand inland river transport protocol to boost bilateral trade. High commissioner of India in Dhaka Riva Das Ganguly and Secretary of Shipping Ministry of Bangladesh Md Mezbahuddin Chowdhury signed 2nd addendum to the protocol on inland water transit and trade between two countries. This new river route not only helps Bangladesh for boosting their export to the third country but landlocked northeastern states would be immensely benefited from goods supply easily by reducing the time of transportation from the mainland of the country.
According to the addendum document, the number of India-Bangladesh Protocol routes are being increased from eight to ten.This includes the Sonamura, a town in Tripura bordering Bangladesh slightly east to Comilla city across the border to Daudkhandi , a city known for floodplain aquaculture in Bangladesh across the river Gomti. This will help to boost bilateral trade between Tripura and Bangladesh and adjoining Indian states.
The addendum also clears operationalization of Rajshahi(Bangladesh)-Dhulian (Murshidabad of Westbengal)-Rajshahi routes with the extension to Aricha. This place is almost in the heart of Bangladesh at the bank of the canal of river Kalinga .This Aricha ghat has importance with reference to Bangladesh Liberation struggle where Mukti Vahini first sunk Pakistani boat with full arms and ammunitions. Rajshahi city is known as the silk city of Bangladesh and famous for commercial activities. Bangladesh has a huge demand for stone chips and this new route will reduce the transport cost for carrying stone chips from India to Bangladesh.
The agreement also operationalizes five new ports of call between India and Bangladesh to facilitate to dock vessels in each other country..Among the newly added ports of call in Indian side are Dhulian(Murshidabad-WestBengal),Kolaghat(Westbengal),Sonamura (Tripura) and Jogigopha(Assam).
Rajshahi, Sultangunj, Chilmari, Daudkhandi, and Bahadurbad are on the Bangladesh side.Inclusion of Jogigopha in India and Bahadurbad in Bangladesh as a new port of call will create connectivity to Assam, Meghalaya, and even to a neighboring countries like Bhutan. As two countries have agreed to introduce trade between Chilmari of Bangladesh and Dhubri in India , the use of shallow draft mechanized vessels can be used for ferrying cargos.This will allow export of stone chips and Bhutanese and North east cargo to Bangladesh and 4asy access to the traders to the hinterland of Bangladesh.The agreement will allow inland vessels of both countries to ply on the designated protocol route and can dock at Port of call in each country notified for loading and unloading. Ultimately it will boost bilateral trade immensely.Further two more extended Ports of call -Triveni in Bandel of West Bengal at the bank of Bhagirathi and Badarpur in Indian side and Ghorasal and Muktarpur on Bangladesh side have been added to the addendum .With this the total number of ports of call is now eleven and two extended ports of call of both countries.
Under this Protocol, Inland vessels of both the countries can ply on the designated protocol route and dock at Ports of Call in each country, notified for loading/unloading of cargo. There has been significant improvement in the movement of cargo vessels in an organized manner on the Protocol route carrying both the transit cargo to North East(NE) region of India and vice-versa and export-cargo to Bangladesh. The Indian transit cargo is mainly coal, fly-ash, POL, and ODC for power projects in NE region. The other potential cargo for movement is fertilizers, cement, food grains, agricultural products, containerized cargo etc. The export cargo from India to Bangladesh is mainly fly-ash which is to the tune of 30 lakhs MT per annum. Around 638 inland vessels (including 600 Bangladeshi flag vessels) completed with approximately 4000 loaded voyages annually.
ÂIt is expected that the above modifications to the Protocol will further facilitate the trade between two countries with improved reliability and cost-effectivenessÂ,says a press release issued by the Indian shipping Ministry.